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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1980 Oct;77(10):6184-8.

Evolutionary origins of vertebrate hormones: substances similar to mammalian insulins are native to unicellular eukaryotes.


Tetrahymena pyriformis, Neurospora crassa, and Aspergillus fumigatus that had been grown in simple defined media were extracted with acid ethanol by a classic method for recovering insulin from pancreas. After filtration of the extracts on Sephadex G-50, distinct peaks of insulin immunoreactivity were recovered in the region typical of insulin. The gel-filtered material from the Tetrahymena had reactivity in the pork insulin radioimmunoassay about equal to its reactivity in the insulin bioassay (stimulation of lipogenesis in isolated rat adipocytes), and the gel-filtered material from neurospora had an immunoreactivity-to-bioactivity ratio of about 1:3. The material that stimulated lipogenesis could be neturalized by anti-insulin sera (i.e., 75-95% of the Tetrahymena material and 60% of the Neurospora material). Bioactive and immunoactive insulin was found in the conditioned medium equal in amount to that in the cells. The findings suggest that insulin did not arise evolutionarily in the intestinal or neural tissues of primitive vertebrates or complex invertebrates but rather has its molecular origins at least as far back as the simplest unicellular eukaryotes.

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